Trends Among U.S. High School Seniors in Recent Marijuana Use and Associations With Other Substances: 1976–2013



      The purpose of this study was to describe historical trends in rates of recent substance use and associations between marijuana and other substances, among U.S. high school seniors by race and gender.


      Data from Monitoring the Future (1976–2013; N = 599,109) were used to estimate historical trends in alcohol use, heavy episodic drinking (HED), cigarette use, and marijuana use. We used time-varying effect models to flexibly estimate changes in associations of substance use behaviors.


      Past-month marijuana use rates peaked in the 1970s, declined through 1990, then rose again to reach levels of use of more than 20% for both black and white participants. Recent years show increasing disparities across groups such that males, and in particular black youth, are on a trajectory toward higher use. This rise in marijuana use is particularly concerning among black youth, with rates far exceeding those for cigarette use and HED. The association of marijuana use with both cigarette use and HED is particularly high in recent years among black adolescents.


      Substance use recently declined among high school seniors, except for marijuana use, particularly among black youth. The increasing association between marijuana and other substances among black adolescents suggests future amplification in critical health disparities.


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